During the Great Depression, as vast numbers of Americans moved around the country looking for work, music -- both live and recorded -- provided "portable memories," upholding cultural identity and experience in a time of sweeping social change. New technologies and industrial processes allowed for regional musicians outside the mainstream to record and bring their songs to a national audience. Phonographs, jukeboxes, and radio allowed musical styles from all over the country to mingle with each other, combining histories, cultures, and techniques in new ways -- at just the same time as millions of displaced workers began to intersect and interact.
As recorded sound entered the world of the movies, many of iconic songwriters (George and Ira Gershwin, Irving Berlin, Cole Porter) left the East Coast for Hollywood. Musicals, comedies, and lavish productions allowed audiences to escape from the reality in which they found themselves. Extravaganzas, like the Gold Diggers series, focused on Americans' obsession with money during the Depression (not to mention with large, spinning Liberty dimes, just like our PIFA project!).
Of course, with the founding of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) in 1935, music became a governmental priority. Under the WPA's Federal Project Number One, thousands of concerts were brought to the public, as were free music classes. Over thirty new orchestras were created, and American regional and traditional music was documented extensively.
COSACOSA's Spare A Dime project pays homage to all the musical genres of the 1930s, both stylistically and structurally. The project's visual arts also reflect the imagery of the time, and next week we'll be posting interviews with our visual and multimedia arts team.
You can hear and see it all at PIFA 13! Get your tickets now!